Friday, September 23, 2011

HBO/BBC MOVIE: House Of Saddam - Part I

"The House of Saddam" was a four-part, 2008 mini-series put together by HBO and the BBC. Part I starts with the beginning of the 2003 invasion, and then flashes back to 1979 when Saddam Hussein came to power by pushing out President Ahmad Hassan al-Bakr. Saddam then initiated a bloody purge and began the Iran-Iraq War. At the same time the Dawa Party was carrying out terrorist attacks within the country, and failed at an assassination attempt, which resulted in the destruction of the town of Dujail. The first episode finishes with the internal power struggle within the regime, as Saddam played off one faction against another, and ended up marrying off his eldest daughter Raghad Hussein to Hussein Kamal, who would eventually become Saddam's number two.


Iraqi Mojo said...

"At the same time the Dawa Party was carrying out terrorist attacks within the country"

Are there any independent news sources that corroborate this claim?

Jules said...

I actually bought this mini-series when it came out on DVD a few years ago. I really like how it was produced! I am not sure how biased it is, but it did give some insight on him as a person.

Has anyone seen "The Devil's Double" yet? I am wanting to see it if it ever comes to my area. I have read one of Latif Yahya's biographies and found it very intriguing!

Joel Wing said...


Yes, Dawa did carry out attacks upon Iraq. I think Maliki was even in charge of some of these operations for a while.

Here’s some quotes from books that I have that briefly mention some of this history.

Charles Tripp, A History Of Iraq

“More important was the effect of the [Iranian] revolutionary example on underground organizations in Iraq, such as al-Da’wa. These took heart from the events in Iran and began to organize attacks on public symbols of the regime in Iraq. The scale of this activity was small, but the Iraqi government, like many governments in the region, had been unnerved by the success of the revolutionaries in Iran and feared the emergence of a similar movement in Iraq. A ferocious campaign of repression therefore began against members of al-Da’wa and other similar organizations.”

“More troubling for the regime was the continued organization of opposition activity amongst the urban Shi’a of Iraq and the encouragement they seemed to receive from the new Iranian government. Confrontations between the security forces and members of the Shi’I community had continued throughout the summer of 1979, encouraged by the revival of some of the militant Islamist underground organizations, sometimes working in tandem, sometimes acting on their own initiative. Al-Da’wa, Jund al-Imam and the Islamic Task Organization all agreed on the need for violence action against the regime and in October 1979 this attitude was endorsed by Jama’at al-Ulama, overcoming its earlier scruples.”

“Others attributed these attempts on the lives of Saddam Hussein’s sons to organized forces of the Islamist opposition based in the Shi’i community. They had been sporadically active since the crushing of the rebellions in the south in 1991. Despite their losses at the hands of the regime’s security forces, al-Da’wa, in particular, could still maintain networks of resistance in urban areas such as the largely Shi’I Madinate Saddam in Baghdad, as well as in cities of the south. However, neither al-Da’wa nor the Iran-based SCIRI was able to achieve much against the formidably armed circles of the regime.”

Marion Farouk-sluglett & Peter Sluglett, Iraq Since 1958

“The Iranian Revolution engendered a tremendous sense of optimism and enthusiasm among a wide body of Muslim opinion, and this atmosphere evidently encouraged al-Da’wa and its leaders to engage the Ba’th in open conflict, attacking party offices and police posts and making open declarations of their support for the Iranian Revolution. The Ba’th responded with its familiar carrot and stick tactics, first by making a series of apparently conciliatory gestures, including setting aside large grants for religious purposes, ‘showing increasing defence to Islam’ in public statements, and by arranging televised visits to the Shi’I South and Madinat al-Thawra during which television sets and gifts of money were distributed in public, usually by Saddam Hussein in person.”

Liam Anderson and Gareth Stansfield, “The Future of Iraq

“Matters reached a head in April 1980 when al-Da’wa members ambushed Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz during a visit to Mustansiriya University in Baghdad. An assassination attempt with hand grenades only slightly wounded Aziz, but killed several students. During their funeral, an al-Da’wa hit squad attacked again, killing more people.”

Joel Wing said...

Jules I obviously liked the series as well. I think it does a great job explaining how Saddam stayed in power through all of the purges, assassinations, and manipulations.

I haven't seen "Devil's Double" yet either. It got relatively good reviews here, but there was a lot of controversy because some newspapers came out and said the story was all made up. Will probably have to see it on DVD.

Joel Wing said...

Mojo, here's a little more.

Liam Anderson and Gareth Stansfield, “The Future of Iraq"

"Militant Islamic groups, including al-Da'wa, found themselves inundated with recruits willing to sacrifice their lives rather than continuing to live under the repression of the Ba'ath regime. Other organizations also blossomed under the reinvigorated militancy, including the Jund al-Imam (Soldiers of the Imam) and the Munazzamat al-Amal al-Islami (Islamic Task Organization). The Manazzamat was an attempt to focus on political activity at the community level. Headed by Ayatollah Muhammad Taqi al-Mudarissi, it is important to note that the Munazzamat was a Karbala-based organization, emphasizing the different and divided geographical focal points of Shi'ism in Iraq. Al-Da'wa base, meanwhile, was Najaf and this inability to promote soidarity amongst the political leadership stunted the growth of the Iraqi Shi'a Islamist movement. The expansion of militant Islamist groups, fueled by the Islamic Republic of Iran, was accompanied by increasingly daring and violent actions targeted against Saddam's regime. By mid-1979 mujahidin were undertaking attacks in Baghdad itself, and Saddam himself was targeted in August. The religious establishment, led by the Society of Religious Scholars in Najaf, gave its support to militancy, issuing a fatwa in October encouraging the fight against the Ba'ath. By the end of 1979, al-Da'wa had established its own military brigade named Shahid al-Sadr (Martyr al-Sadr) Force."

Iraqi Mojo said...

Thanks Joel. I was surprised when I watched the scene in House of Saddam in which a man is shown placing a suitcase bomb in a cafe. I lived in Baghdad between 1980 and 1982, and I did not hear about any terrorist attacks. But this doesn't mean they did not take place.

When I commented on my blog and others that the Iraqi Shia never attacked Sunni Arabs like Sunni extremists have attacked Iraqi Shia, some people responded by saying that Da'wa did attack and kill innocent people. So I've always wondered if it's true. Thanks for citing your sources. I want to read more about these attacks.

Still it is obvious the attacks by Da'wa are small in number and scale compared to thousands of suicide bombings, car bombs, and other terrorist attacks targeting Iraqi Shia since 2003.

Joel Wing said...

No problem Mojo. It appeared that a combination of Saddam's repression and the Iranian revolution inspired a lot of the Shiite opposition parties to turn to violence. Saddam was expelling Shiites he claimed were Iranians, banned pilgrimages to some of the holy sites, killed a bunch of Dawa members, etc. in the 1970s. After the Iranian Revolution, a lot of the Shiite parties ended up setting up offices there and getting support from Tehran, and then there was a steady flow of refugees there as well.